Fun Facts About Vending Machines

Everyone has seen a vending machine at some point in their life, but not everyone may know there is a rich history—and big business­—behind those self-contained retail boxes. Read on to discover fun facts about vending machines, like when vending machines were invented and what improvements have been made to vending machines since then.

History of vending machines

The history of vending machines is interesting and varied. It started earlier than you probably imagined, but took about 2,000 years to become a widely adopted practice. When were vending machines invented, you might ask? Read on to find out:

  • First vending machine: The idea of a vending machine is thought to have originated in 215 BCE in ancient Egypt. It was reportedly used to sell holy water in the Temple of Alexandria.
  • Original patent: While the idea may have been around for 2,000 years, the first patent for a vending machine wasn’t issued until 1857, when a British inventor had the idea for a machine that would sell stamps without the need for a human to facilitate the transaction.
  • Food sales: In the early 20th century, food was beginning to pop up in vending machines, and the first gumball vending machines were introduced in 1907.
  • Stay warm: In the 1930s, England had a vending machine that dispensed nuggets of coal. It remains unknown whether this was available to all or just to those on Santa’s “naughty” list.
  • Just in case: From the 1950s to the ‘70s, American airports had vending machines selling life insurance policies for passengers worried about their plane crashing.
  • Seeing is believing: The first glass-front vending machines were introduced in 1972. Before that, buyers simply had to trust that what they were paying for would be what they received.

Looking ahead

There have been some major improvements to vending machines since the days of gumballs and life insurance policies. Here are some seemingly futuristic vending ideas that are 100 percent true.

  • Movie rentals: In the 2000s, Redbox introduced the idea of renting from and having customers return items to a vending machine. These kiosks offer movies and video games for rent, and can track when they are returned.
  • Virtual vending: The popular online video game Fortnite added vending machines to its virtual universe in 2018, allowing players to purchase in-game options with real-world money.

Big business

Vending machines not only changed the way we buy things, but they’ve also had a big impact on the business world. Here are some business facts that may spark your interest in investing.

  • Big money: In 2018, the snack and vending machine industry generated more than $26 billion in revenue—and that number has only been growing since then.
  • Stay chill: Beverages are the most popular vending item, with 31 percent of vending machine sales coming from soda or cold drinks.
  • Everyone’s doing it: The average American per capita spending per year on vending machines is $62, and 7 out of 10 people will put money into some kind of vending machine every day.

What improvements will be made to vending machines in the future? We’re sure it’s only a matter of time until some new feature takes us all by surprise. For all your vending machine needs, contact VSI Vending & Coffee Services today.

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